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Published: 06 May 2017

By Andy Ross

Working on the loom

Putting a warp on Alvin, our loom at the studio, is a satisfying task...

This week I have been warping up the next set of Fiona Daly throws and today I finished putting the threads on the back beam ready to thread through the heddles. If that all sounds like double dutch to you, here are some interesting figures!

On the back of the loom is a beam around which each warp thread is wrapped. To make the next set of throws - twelve in all - I have to turn the beam 33 times, each time putting 24 threads in order onto the beam. These 24 threads go onto the beam in sections and there are 29 sections in total across the loom. (If I have lost you already then I apologise but hang in there for the rest of you!)

29 sections multiplied by 24 threads gives a total of 696 threads. Each one of those is 30 metres long which means that over the last week 20,880 metres of yarn has been put on the loom. It also means that I have turned the back beam 957 times to get those yarns on.

In addition each warp section is made up of a combination of colours which have to go onto the beam in order. And each of those threads has to come off a spindle which needs to be wound with enough yarn to ensure that it does not run out while the yarns go onto the beam. 

If this sounds complicated (and this is only the first part of the warping up. Wait until the threading comes along.) well, it is, but it is also strangely relaxing and calming. Watching the threads going onto the beam and counting each of them, striking off the numbers of revolutions on a chart, listening to music all the while, and occasionally looking out of the window at the sunshine must count as one of the most peaceful occupations it is possible to have. 

I think this must the reason that everyone who comes to the studio says that weaving is therapeutic. And when the final cloth comes off the loom, even and full of colour, it brings a huge sense of accomplishment. How very lucky we are to live here and work in such a calm and peaceful way to make a living.